If you want to be the best, you gotta play the best.
South Umpqua jumps into the fire in that regard Friday night when the Lancers host second-ranked Marshfield in their Far West League opener.
Douglas hosts Siuslaw on Friday in its FWL opener and Sutherlin travels to Sisters in the Sky-Em League opener as the 4A football season goes from nonleague simmer to conference boil this week.
The Lancers, though, may face the biggest challenge of the three Douglas County squads. Marshfield (3-0) has outscored its opponents this season 117-63 and really been tested only in the season opener: a 35-29 victory over reigning state champion Cascade in a game played on the Cougars’ home field in Turner.
South Umpqua (1-2) rallied for its first win last Friday in Talent, defeating Phoenix 26-23 with a fourth-quarter touchdown run by quarterback Cody Gray.
Overall, the Far West League appears to be among the toughest conferences in the state. Three teams are currently in the top 10 of the OSAA power rankings: Marshfield, No. 3 North Bend and No. 8 Douglas.
South Umpqua (1-2) is No. 20 after a tough nonconference slate that featured three games against Skyline Conference squads. The Lancers came up short against No. 5 Mazama (2-1) and No. 6 North Valley (3-0) before breaking through against the landbound Pirates of Phoenix (1-2).
Marshfield’s coastal Pirates are tested and loaded with 19 seniors. MHS finished 8-3 in 2015 with a 48-46 loss to 4A state runner-up Scappoose in the quarterfinals. The Pirates defeated S.U. 50-6 in 2015.
SIUSLAW (1-2) at DOUGLAS (2-1) — The Trojans have their first winning streak since 2013 and a top-10 ranking. They lost to Siuslaw 42-20 last season in Florence. The Vikings beat up 0-3 Newport 37-7 last week to give first-year coach Jamin Pool his first win. Carter Dahl has passed for 446 yards and four scores in Douglas’ winning streak. He rushed for three scores in last week’s 46-27 pasting of Hidden Valley (2-1). The Trojans’ loss was 41-28 to fourth-ranked Valley Catholic (3-0).
SUTHERLIN (0-3) at SISTERS (2-1) — Sutherlin got something going offensively against No. 6 North Valley last week as Conner Grauf rushed for 126 yards and a TD on 13 carries in a 65-21 loss. SHS started junior Zach Yarbrough in place of injured quarterback Tristan Needham. Yarbrough passed for 85 yards in the loss. Sisters won the Sky-Em in 2015, although the Outlaws did not face Sutherlin as the Oct. 2 game was cancelled in the aftermath of the UCC shooting. The Outlaws’ loss this season is a 12-10 trip up at Cascade in week two, while their wins are over 3A Burns (2-1), 25-22, and 4A Crook County (0-3), 35-7.
GLIDE (2-1) at MYRTLE POINT (1-2) — The Wildcats are coming off their first loss — to Sunset League power Reedsport, 29-14 — and were in the contest with the lower-classification Braves until second-half turnovers undid their bid for a 3-0 start. Cyller Cunningham did rush for a career-high 197 yards and two TDs against Reedsport. Glide will look to clean up the turnovers and get back on track against the Bobcats, who haven’t scored since winning their opener with Rogue River, 28-8. M.P. has been outscored 99-0 in losses to Coquille and Central Linn the last two weeks.
OAKLAND (3-0) at REEDSPORT (2-1) — This marquee matchup wasn’t on the schedule when the season began, but both teams had opponents cancel scheduled games for this week. The Oakers were slated to play at Bandon, so making this road trip is little different. Reedsport’s contest with Enterprise was supposed to be a neutral site game, now the Braves have an extra home game in a year when they only had three on the schedule. Joe Hixenbaugh had a 98-yard interception return and Tyreese Gardner scored three TDs and rushed for 103 yards against Glide last week. Oakland manhandled Rogue River 69-8 last week as Andrew Harrington passed for two scores and Trae Crawford rushed for 105 yards and three scores while the defense came up with nine turnovers.